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Where Is North by Alison Jarvis

Source: Mary Bisbee-Beek
Paperback, 83
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Where Is North by Alison Jarvis, winner of the 2015 Gerald Cable Book Award, asks readers to think about where their own “north” is — where is their home or where do they feel most at home.  Many of us will conjure up memories of our mothers and fathers, siblings, or just the best friends we ever had.  There are some of us who have lived most of our lives alone, until we meet that special someone who becomes that home we’ve longed for.  Jarvis reaches out through her poems to remind us of these connections and their importance to our own well being and happiness, even as connections end or become distant.

Skaters (pg. 33)

We belonged to snow and ice,
to Dodd's Pond at Christmas, released
from classes, shining our way
through the morning dark, 
like miners.  We'd skate out
together, alone, to astonish ourselves;
past lunch, past supper
past any possibility
our numbed fingers could ever
untie our laces.

In “At the Diebenkorn Show Without You,” the poem speaks of the rural person eager to get out, to move beyond the prairie and its empty roads to a place that is bustling like California, but as it turns, the reader notes a redirection, attention called to the now, to the foreground, to the moment at hand.  Like the poem, the narrator has to self-correct, to refocus and be in the moment, rather than always looking out and at the distance.  Much of the collection moves like this — back and forth — between the now and the future or the now and the past.  In “Daylight Savings,” the changing of the clocks is a reminder that soon a spouse will not be there reminding the narrator not to be late, and in “Ask Me,” love is the actions we take for one another — the small and large — and when you can no longer be asked, how do you make those connections again? In this case, the narrator tells stories.

Time moves on and things change like the farm purchased in “Dakota” for the “young/To begin their purposeful suburban lives.”  It is easy to “map our love with loss” says the narrator of “75 Marshall Avenue,” but it is better to act with love and engage in that dance of life.  Where Is North by Alison Jarvis is the bumpy ride we all take and the love that we leave behind and are given along the way.  Not all of the journey will be good, but we need to remember that home is where the love is.

RATING: Quatrain

Read some of her poems:

About the Poet:

Alison Jarvis was born in Canada and grew up in Minnesota. She is a recipient of the Lyric Poetry Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, and a Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. Her work has appeared in Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, New Ohio Review, Notre Dame Review, Seattle Review, upstreet, and other journals and anthologies, including Best Indie Lit New England. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has been a practicing psychotherapist for 30 years.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge